Western Dubuque's long wait for another state tournament victory is finally over.
The eighth-ranked Bobcats survived a late run by No. 2 Sioux City Bishop Heelan to post a 53-44 victory in the final Class 4A opening round game. This is Western Dubuque's first trip to state since it won the championship back in 1987 and the Bobcats are now in the semifinals.
They got there by surviving 26 turnovers and making the right plays after Heelan rallied from an 11-point deficit to cut the lead to 42-41 on Jenna Bork's two free throws with 3:49 left.
But Western Dubuque held the Crusaders to one basket the rest of the way and outscored Heelan 11-3 to finish it off. Rose Simon-Ressler and Megan Maahs, who did most of the scoring for the Bobcats, each got a bucket inside to start the late surge and Molly Lembezeder added five points, including a three-point play with 6 seconds left to cap the victory.
Simon-Ressler and Maahs combined to make 17 of 25 shots, Simon-Ressler finishing with 21 points and Maahs scoring 16 to go with 10 rebounds and six blocks. Lembezeder added 10 points.
Bork, who has signed with Morningside, led Bishop Heelan with 18 points and teammate Bailey Heaton scored eight. Tristan Beaulieu added seven points and eight rebounds for the Crusaders, who state titles in 2008 and 2010 and reached the semifinals in each of the two previous years.
Sharp passing in its half-court offense helped Western Dubuque make 15 of its first 19 shots -- mostly close-in attempts by Maahs and Simon-Ressler. The Bobcats cooled off slightly after that but still shot 65.6 percent for the game.
Western Dubuque takes 22-2 record against No. 7 Ballard in a semifinal game at 8:30 p.m. Thursday. Heelan, which stayed in it by coming up with 15 steals, finishes 20-4.
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